Four Great Survival Skills

One of the cool things about getting older is you recognize wisdom. You learn to separate the faddish bloviators from the truly wise people.

Tim Ferris strikes me as wise. He wrote a smart book about focusing on the right things and not wasting time as you pursue your dreams.

Malcolm Gladwell is wise. He’s the guy who wrote in his book Outliers that success is a matter of practicing for ten thousand hours. And how that fact relates to our country’s idiotic approach to “educating” our students.

Sheryl Sandberg is wise when she says our little girls are not going to grow up to assume the reins of power unless we change our thinking, and fast. You can watch her TED speech here.

I recently discovered a couple of wise brothers, Dan and Chip Heath. They give speeches and write books about making smart decisions. In a recent column in, they identify four key areas for ensuring you survive during this economic downturn. They mean it career-wise but I think it’s 100% applicable to life in general.

Principle 1: Look for bright spots

We tend to focus on the negative. It’s a biological, genetic imperative that I wrote about previously.  Per the Heaths, “this bias will tempt you to focus on the negative when it comes to your work: What are the problems I’m facing and how do I fix them? And, in doing that, you’ll neglect an equally important question: What’s working now, despite the obstacles, and how can I do more of it?”

How this relates to us:

Isn’t this a promising line of questions for our interpersonal relationships? You could apply it to your marriage, your kids, your friends, and your professional endeavors.

The problems tend to get most of our attention (see: Pareto Principal). If we know that, maybe we can enhance our quality of life by shoving the negatives back in the box and playing more with the positives. Fun thought, eh?

Principle 2: Find the right gravity

According to the Heaths, who got the idea from motivational speaker Jim Rohn, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

The Heaths relate it to a work environment, which “exerts a gravitational pull on us; the longer we stay, the more we’ll come to resemble the people we surround ourselves with.”

How this relates to us:

I’m such a fan of Stockholm Syndrome, don’t get me started. I mean this in the sense of women who lose themselves in their significant others. After a while you don’t even notice you’re adopting group-think. So watch out. Flypaper is everywhere. Don’t apologize, just notice. And then flee.

Principle 3: Maintain your bridges

Per the Heaths, we get more benefit from acquaintances than friends:

A landmark 1973 sociology paper by Mark Granovetter described the surprising amount of benefit we receive from our acquaintances, whom he called “weak ties” (as distinct from our “strong ties,” who are our closest friends and family). For example, in one study, Granovetter interviewed people who’d found a job through their contacts. In about 83 percent of the cases, the critical job lead came from a weak tie—a person seen occasionally or rarely.

How this relates to us:

According to Granovetter, opportunities are more likely to come from the least likely place, but as older peeps we tend to think we’ve seen it all. This attitude could wall you off from the magic! So don’t lose your sense of childlike wonder; don’t stop believing. Be open.

Principle 4: Avoid following the herd

Per the Heaths, “In pre-crash Iceland, lifetime fishermen laid down their rods to become investment bankers. We all know how that ended. It’s hard to resist following the herd, but traveling with the herd makes it harder to distinguish yourself. Differentiating yourself requires you to do something different. Think of it this way:

On Krypton, Superman was just an average Joe.
But on Earth, he was Superman.”

How this relates to us:

Older peeps are independent thinkers. At least, that’s what we like to tell ourselves, but in truth, we huddle and bitch just like any other age group.

It’s lonely if you’re out standing in a field. 

In 2011, many of our myths are falling away. Here’s what I’ve come to understand: Some of today’s music is wonderful. Lots of young people work harder than I ever did. And Twitter is about more than a ham sandwich.

Think for yourself, even if it hurts.

Housekeeping note: I am fake-humbled but mostly totally thrilled to tell you that this blog just received its one-hundredth subscriber! So when you leave a comment, you will be speaking to a whole bunch of friends. Your voice is amplified! Have fun with it. Leave a comment – share your voice. And thank you. 


  1. says

    I did not get in under the C mark, but here nonetheless. Great post and fabulous philosophies. Stop by my Green Room and leave a link to your blog. I am certain quite a few of my readers would enjoy what you have to say!

  2. says

    Hey Lynne,

    I love your blog, and this post was excellent. Congrats on your 100th subscriber. Judging by what I’ve read so far here, you absolutely deserve it. You provide so much great information, it’s jam-packed with helpful wisdom and useful information. I really enjoy your writing style. Please keep it going! Good luck!

  3. Mary says

    Hi Lynne,
    I wanted to first acknowledge that I’m your one-hundredth subscriber. Yeah!!! All four principles you listed were spot on. I think it’s important for all of us to remember that aging is a gift that many people don’t receive.

    • says

      Welcome, Mary! Thanks for letting us know you’re our 100th sistah! I’m looking forward to getting to know you better. All of us will be looking forward to your comments. See you around!

  4. says

    This is another thought-provoking. post.Excellent! You have taken some pretty basic ideas and added your own unique thoughts,adding lots of juicy links. it is not the least bit surprising that your “tribe” is expanding. Your blog is a happening place and a great place to hang out, especially for those of us “at a certain age” You enlighten, entertain and inspire~ Congratuations! Well-deserved indeed. I agree with Debbie. “You did good ,sistah” :-)

  5. says

    Thanks, Rae and Joyce. It’s so great to get feedback, esp. since like Joyce, I’m a loner at heart. I sometimes read that the thing that keeps women healthy is “deep friendships with 4 or 5 people”, and I think uh oh! But on the other hand, I treasure my friendships with my wonderful acquaintances. It feels really good, and healthy, to me. Best wishes for a great holiday.

  6. says

    I love this post Lynne, as usual. You dream up such interesting things to write about, things that always seem to resonate with me. I’m particularly drawn to the third principle – gaining more benefits from friends than acquaintances. I tend to have more acquaintances than friends, perhaps because I’m a quasi loner at heart. But I love meeting new people and building bridges. They usually bring me new experiences. Thanks for this post!

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